November 27, 2022

Maasive Loss due to Lumpy Skin Disease

Inderjit Singh

A COW belonging to a farmer, Jaidev of Matani village in Haryana's Bhiwani district , bordering Rajasthan died of Lumpy skin disease. The death of Jaidev's cow caused him not only a loss of Rs 45 to 50 thousand ( tentative price of that cow giving 16 litres milk per day) but also around Rs 10 thousand spent on its unsuccessful treatment . His second cow was also infected with Lumpy . Though it survived, but there was a reduction in  milk production. Mahavir of village Gullarpur in Karnal district of Haryana lost a cow with 9-10 litre milk per day causing the family tremendous distress . Dhabi Kalan and Ram Sarai, both villages of Fatehabad district of Haryana recorded 35 and 24 cows respectively due to LSD .


These are not stray cases; rather there are a large number of cattle rearing families whose livelihoods have been drastically affected in several states. 

It is a pity that no word came from either the state or central government towards providing financial assistance to the sufferers.

Those who unleashed a high pitched publicity over the arrival of eight Cheetahs from Namibia had not a single word of remorse over thousands of cattle suffering and dying from Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD). The epidemic  not only unwittingly coincided with the time of Cheetah festivities but was at its peak right at that point of time .  Then more weeks passed and more cows passed away . Still no word of concern for the aggrieved owners from any other BJP leader let alone the PM.

It was no other animal but the same 'holy' cow whom they often use for garnering votes in elections and make it a ploy for spreading hatred against the minority community and dalits by branding them as cow smugglers and slaughterers  for sharpening the communal polarisation .

The Gaushalas (cow shelters)  happened to witness heaps of decomposed carcass of the dead cattle while the so called Gaubhakts were found wanting even for properly burying these dead cattle . This has gone as yet another exposure of the bluff called by the divisive politics of communal polarisation thriving in the name of sacred cows across the country especially in the entire  Hindi belt.

Overwhelming majority of cattle rearers are small and marginal farmers . Animal husbandry as an essential subsidiary livelihood occupation continues to occupy a critical role in sustaining the crisis ridden agriculture sector. Despite the total population of small farmers being overwhelming and having the largest number of total livestock India is also the largest producer ( 22 per cent) of milk in the world .  


The LSD spread has already taken a huge toll on cows in terms of their death and drastic reduction in milk yield . In Gujarat alone the decline in milk production is estimated to the tune of one lakh litre per day during the peak period of LSD . In Rajasthan which was worst affected in terms of loss of milk production is reported to be three to six lakh litres per day . Dairy farmers in all other affected states too have incurred  heavy economic losses by way of losing their  milch cattle infected with LSD and reduction in the milk yield of the surviving ones.

The origin of the LSD virus had been located in Africa in 1929 but later on spread to the Middle East, Asian and other countries. The virus has been found to be Capripox virus related to Goat and Sheep pox virus . It exists in the form of hundreds of variants and mutants by which mainly the cattle are infected  but there is incidence of buffaloes too found affected . The disease is contagious although not zoonotic.

The disease  has been surfacing in various states and affecting the cattle from time to time in the past few years.  But no measures including vaccination and treatment were taken . Both the state and central governments and the concerned ministers remained almost callous and negligent in anticipating the LSD spread. No prior warnings were issued nor preventive measures propagated publicly.

The LSD, a viral infection caused by Cowpox virus had been  appearing sporadically but this time its outbreak  took the form of epidemic in its spread . Both severity and  virulence were much intense this time around. Even  the range of 5-10 per cent mortality rate is too devastating, economically for the small farmers .

Starting from Gujarat sometime in the month of July 2022 it got spread to more than a dozen states including Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttrakhand, UP , NCR, Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra etc., had its outbreak. Although the degree of severity varied from state to state and regions within the states however, Rajasthan has suffered worst i.e., almost 3-4 lakh cattle heads perished.

 There are a total of 45,000 villages in Rajasthan and on an average every village lost at least 8-10 cows per village while in some villages the number of mortalities touched one hundred mark in one village.

According to casually available sources over one lakh cattle died of LSD  but estimates of some other reports reveal more deaths. Gaushalas and dairies having herds of cattle huddled together have experienced comparatively more numbers of infected cattle as well as more mortality . The deaths of cows were not registered by the departments of animal husbandry.  Although in recent weeks the spread has receded it has left behind a trail of devastation of livelihood of thousands of farmers engaged in animal husbandry and dairy sector.

In Haryana the Northern districts of Ambala, Yamuna Nagar , Kurukshetra were among the more severely affected though other regions were not free of it . According to grassroot information in  Yamuna Nagar there was an average mortality of a dozen cows in every village on the average. One dairy owner alone lost 14 cows . A veterinarian said that the worst affected regions in Haryana have only 25-30 per cent staff in hospitals. Not only this, in most of the dispensaries the most basic necessities are not provided, like Potassium Permanganate (KMNO4) , one of the cheapest and essential substances to clean and disinfect the wounds, is not available . Even dressings are a rare item.

So far there is no medicine as such for its treatment however the use of goat pox vaccine has been recommended by Indian Veterinary Research Institute has been found to be effective in the formation of antibodies in the animal. 

The virus is spread by insect vectors like mosquitoes , wasps, ticks , fodder or water having saliva of infected cattle.

Symptoms are hard and round modules of different size on the skin all over the body including mucous membrane , genitals , udder etc., high fever, miscarriage in pregnant cows,  loss of appetite , decrease in milk yield, hypersalivation, watery eyes . The ailing cattle dies also if its body resistance is not strong enough to withstand LSD infection.

It is necessary that LSD and other such diseases are tackled with utmost seriousness keeping in view  the key position of the dairy sector for India as the largest milk producer and on which so crucially depends on the livelihood of crores of farmers and food security of the marginal rural families. A sizable number of landless agricultural labourers and other non-farm rural households including widows are rendered a shattered lot with the loss of a milch cow . Most of them keep a cow for their livelihood depending on selling milk as these families cannot afford buffaloes which are costlier in price and involve comparatively more input costs for rearing them.


Immediate steps both short term and long term perspective will have to be taken on war footing by the departments of animal husbandry under states and central governments, Veterinary Animal Sciences Universities, research and Vaccine Institutes . Immediate steps, however, must have been providing economic relief to those farmers who have suffered heavy losses in the death of large numbers of their cows. The loans taken from banks for purchasing of the cows should be waived off and fresh interest free loans be made available to the families suffering losses. There should be an insurance policy covering entire livestock with a nominal premium on the farmers.

In the above context what is most deplorable is the utter indifference and insensitivity of the government towards the pathetic plight of affected farmers. Mortality of the cattle have not been even taken on record for extending financial help and other measures towards ameliorating their distress.
According to AIKS sources it is the Maharashtra state alone where records of mortalities are being updated by preparing the Panchnama and other legal formalities for the purpose of giving financial support to the affected cattle farmers. AIKS in Maharashtra took timely initiative in this regard demanding preventive measures including registration of infected cattle. As a result Rs  30,000 financial support has been sanctioned from the state government and additional Rs 10,000 to be given by the local bodies like zila parishads.